Family hopes to honor Navy trailblazer with Richmond statue: 'He did astronomical things'

Family hopes to honor Navy trailblazer with Richmond statue: 'He did astronomical things'
Posted at 5:51 PM, May 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-23 17:51:45-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- While Navy Week has come to an end in Richmond, efforts to honor a Richmond-native who broke barriers continue as the family of Admiral Samuel L. Gravely wants to erect a statue in his honor.

"He did astronomical things in the military," said Gravely's niece, Laurette Johnson Cain Turner.

Gravely grew up in the city's Fulton neighborhood. A historical marker is placed where his house once stood and Admiral Gravely Boulevard in the neighborhood is named for his honor, but the family hopes to find a spot, potentially in the adjacent Gillies Creek Park, for the statue.

"This would be a nice area, wherever it is -- we just want one put up," said Turner. "This would be a nice area. There's a lot of space and this is where he grew up."

During Gravely's 38-year career with the Navy, he was the first African-American to command a warship and a fleet and was the first to be promoted to the ranks of Rear Admiral and Vice Admiral.

Along with the honors in the Fulton neighborhood, he also has a quote etched into the atrium of the Virginia War Memorial and has a destroyer named after him. His legacy and accomplishments were the features of several discussions during Navy Week.

"No matter who you are, what you do, as long as you're the best at it, and you've prospered to do your best you can accomplish anything," said Gravely's daughter, Tracy, of her father's legacy following a Navy Week presentation.

The family said they have spoken with lawmakers and groups about the efforts to build a statue and Turner said one can be built sometime in the next two years.

“I have and will continue to advocate for funding to commemorate and memorialize Vice Admiral Samuel L. Gravely, Jr. in the City of Richmond,” said 7th District Councilmember Cynthia Newbille, who represents the area Gravely grew up, when asked about efforts to build a statue. “Richmond was home to Vice Admiral Gravely, who became the first African American in the U.S. to command a U.S. Navy ship and whose exceptional military service included World War II, Korea, and Vietnam, and I remain committed to working with the Administration and others to help identify any city, state, or philanthropic funding to honor and remember him.”

Turner said they are looking at creating either a nonprofit or starting a fundraiser.

She added they hope to announce the next steps by June 2, which will be the first anniversary of "Admiral Samuel L. Gravely, Jr. Day" in Virginia following last year's designation at the Virginia War Memorial.



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